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Is there room for another book on the rural voters who delivered the surprising outcome of the 2016 election? Yes, there is, when the book is Trump’s Democrats, by Stephanie Muravchik and Jon A. Shields, just out from the Brookings Institution. Muravchik and Shields do something unusual in this book; rather than do yet another excursion into survey data and statistical mumbo-jumbo, they went out to three diverse areas where Trump flipped a substantial number of Democratic voters, and talked to them.
The result is this compulsively readable and very insightful book that departs from many of the conventional explanations that have taken hold since 2016. (I’ll name just one: in the three areas they studied, there is no evidence that the Trump vote can be understood as a culmination of the Ross Perot-Pat Buchanan-Tea Party movements of the last 25 years.)
The book is brimming with judicious perceptions of the place-based politics of these Democratic strongholds, along with searching questions about the immediate and long-term future of the Democratic Party. Trump, many of these Democratic voters perceived, is more like an old-style Democratic boss than a modern Republican, though it is not clear whether they will stick with Republicans after Trump is gone. Much depends on what strategic choices Democrats make, regardless of whether they win or lose in November. The key question: Is the Democratic Party of the New Deal on its way to disappearing for good?